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SnakePit Round Table: Into the break

As the first half ends, let’s look back at what has passed, and forward at what is to come...

Cleveland Indians v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

We welcome Pat McCarthy (formerly TheMostHatedManInTheSnakePit and DescalsoSucks, though he has admitted the error of his ways there!) as this week’s “reader representative”. If you’re interested in doing the same next week, speak up in the comments, and I’ll email the first qualifying person to post, the questions on Saturday (so, obviously, you need to have an email address attached to your account!). You’ll need to be able to get the answers back to me by Sunday evening, so a timely turnaround will be necessary. If you miss out this week, try again next - we’ll aim for a different person each time. And with that said, onto this edition...

The first half is in the books. What are your thoughts, overall?

Michael: I can’t tell how good this team wants to be. There are flashes of brilliance at times and flashes of terrible play otherwise. Overall, the pitching has taken a small step backwards compared to last year, but a very small step backwards. Greinke and Corbin have continued to be reliable, Godley ended the first half on a high note, and Robbie Ray looked more like his 2017 self in his final start. The offense at times can put up some big numbers but very too often will have runs where the opposing pitcher sets down 7-14 hitters in a row in the middle of a game. The team hasn’t had a healthy lineup going at the same time, but it likely won’t be a good offensive team when all is said and done. To be 9 or 11 games above .500 despite one of the worst offenses in the league is a testament to the rotation and a very reliable bullpen.

Jack: Big picture, the team is in first place, (as of this writing), and so you have to be happy about that. It’s been a wild up and down ride so far, but it’s one I’ve mostly enjoyed once we got past the dark places of May.

Makakilo: The first half has been enjoyable! Although April’s results raised expectations beyond reasonable, and May’s results were abysmal, that doesn’t change that the D-backs are in contention to win the NL West – which increases my happiness. This season is a window of opportunity to win the NL West. Because of that window, it is likely that Hazen will execute two trade opportunities in the next two weeks. The next two weeks should be very interesting!

edbigghead:1st half has been a roller coaster of emotions. D-backs are in 1st place as I type so I am nothing but hella satisfied with the 1st half. I’d like to point out the way things have turned around for Alex Avila this 1st half. Not necessarily his numbers but how the fans rejected (bood) him, and now embrace him. He was the most hated man on the team ever it seemed. However once he returned from the DL he hit a few balls and he pitched a few innings - it’s like he became loved, like he became family. We should consider a lottery system to decide who gets to invite Alex Avila to Thanksgiving.

Keegan: If the offense was marginally better, this team would be the best in the National League, and it wouldn’t even be close. I’m glad that Goldy erupted after his slump because I don’t think I could have listened to the fanbase unreasonably question him for an entire season. Also delighted to see strong seasons from Corbin and Pollock as it all but guarantees that they will decline the qualifying offers the D’backs give them this offseason. Hopefully that will help begin to rebuild the farm system, if Hazen and Co. have a better draft next time around.

Pat: I love the D-backs, but the team this year drives me crazy. Bouncing back and forth between white hot and ice cold has given me my first gray hair. Overall, I can’t be too disappointed with how our record is and the position we are in. At 53-44 and just a half game back of the Dodgers, this is about where I thought the team would be at the halfway point. On the plus side, I feel as though our should-have-been main contributors have been largely a disappointment, and our depth has kept us on our feet through the rough patches. I still believe this team can improve.

Who are your picks as most/least valuable player to date?

Michael: Least valuable position player award belongs to Chris Owings although you can make an easy argument for Alex Avila. However, Avila is doing fine behind the plate and because catching is harder than playing outfield or infield, I gave the tiebreaker to Owings. Owings hasn’t really hit much, but the few times he’s done something then runs seem to come. The team’s least valuable pitcher is Jorge De La Rosa, who wins the award due to Godley’s run of late. I don’t see how the team keeps him after the deadline, he really doesn’t eat up innings like McFarland and his high leverage success in 2017 did not carry over into 2018. At this point he’s a wasted roster space for a bullpen that doesn’t have a lot of flexibility.

Jack: I’ll go with Goldy and Souza for most and least valuable. Not just because they are at the top and bottom of the bWAR table, (3.2 vs. -0.9). Despite the worst slump of his career, Goldy continued to be the consummate professional. His defense never lagged. His effort never lagged. His hustle never lagged. His example never lagged. Even his sense of humor never lagged. (“Just tell them I suck”). Maybe we (or I) take these things for granted sometimes, but we (I) shouldn’t . And there he stands, after a brilliant 7 weeks well atop the leaderboard on this team in everything. Souza on the other hand, has hurt the team a lot, first by failing to stay healthy and then by playing about as bad as he could possibly play when he was on the field. Considering the price paid to get him, it’s been especially damaging.

His bat has come around of late, and thats good, because he was really dragging the team down on both sides of the ball. Owings deserves dishonorable mention here, (-1.0 fWAR) but he has a different role on this team and he didn’t cost major league ready talent to acquire.

Makakilo: Most valuable: On the pitching side, many players are contending: Greinke, Corbin, Godley, Buchholz, Boxberger, Bradley, Hirano, Chafin, and McFarland. On the position player side, contenders are Goldschmidt, Descalso, Peralta, Pollock and Murphy. My pick is Paul Goldschmidt.

Least Valuable: On the pitching side, the contenders are Shelby Miller (ERA 11.4) and Kris Medlen (ERA 15.75). On the position player side, my area of concern is the outfield. The contenders are: Owings, Dyson, Souza, Jay, and Brito. Interestingly, they all have positive defensive WAR except Souza. The least valuable is a tie between Shelby Miller and Steven Souza Jr..

edbigghead: Gonna keep this short and sweet. MVP to date, The Lord Emperor Himself, Paul Goldschmidt. The LVP is JRDL hands down, let him contemplate his failures on the Tree of DFA (Woe).

Keegan: Least valuable players have easily been Shelby Miller and Chris Owings. Owings has been a black hole in the lineup. Shelby Miller has cost the team all 4 games he started. End the madness. I’ll change gears to break the trend and say David Peralta for most valuable. He’s been a pace setter in the lineup for most of the season and a spark plug for the team. Completely underrated player.

Pat: If looking strictly at WAR, I’d be inclined to pick Paul Goldschmidt. However, I cannot forget that horrid stretch of his and that definitely nocks him down in my eyes. I believe the most valuable player this year has been Patrick Corbin. He has stepped up and been the ace of the team when so many other pitchers have either gotten hurt or under-performed. His 2.81 FIP is ninth among qualified pitchers, and his 3.1 fWAR is also ninth in the league. He has been a top ten pitcher in the majors so far this year and is a key reason why the Dbacks are still in the pennant race.

I have a feeling that the least valuable player is going to be close to unanimous between the people writing here. Chris Owings has been absolute garbage. He currently has a 43 wRC+. To put that in context, if you look at every player who has at least 250 PA, his wRC+ is 3rd worst in the majors (Chris Davis and Alcides Escobar are the two below him). Unfortunately for us, that hasn’t stopped Lovullo from putting him in the lineup. He has accumulated 255 PA this year, and is sitting at -1.0 fWAR. At least it’s a versatile -1.0 WAR. *scoffs*

What one, non-Machado player do think the D-backs can and should trade for?

Michael: The Dbacks should trade for a starting pitcher, although I think the starting five of Greinke, Corbin, Ray, Godley, and Buchholz could carry them a bit. Greinke and Corbin are All-Stars and have been very reliable on the season to date save for a few poor starts, but everyone has those. Godley has been plagued by inconsistencies, but his last two starts were very encouraging (12 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 14 K). Buchholz has been decent in his 7 starts, but wore out his welcome in Boston before getting scooped up by the Dbacks. With the Dbacks facing a very tough schedule in September with both the division and Wild Card up for grabs, the team could upgrade their pitching corps.

Nathan Eovaldi is the most interesting rental name on the trade market, although his career has been somewhat of a disappointment as he’s been hit harder than a guy of his talent level usually should be. Another pitcher that could be on the move is the MetsZack Wheeler. Wheeler has been equally as disappointing for the Mets as Eovaldi has for 3 teams, mostly due to injury. When healthy, Wheeler is a middle of the rotation starter and has control through the 2019 season, so the Dbacks would have to pay a pretty penny to land him. I’m not interested in trading Duplantier or Widener for 1 year and 2 months of Wheeler though.

Jack: I still think they need a bat before they need a starting pitcher. If they DO trade for a starting pitcher, who do you replace in the starting rotation and how do you make the case that the Zack Wheeler’s of the world are likely to be more consistent than anyone in our rotation ? I’d need those two questions answered first before I would personally sign off on a SP trade.

Is it possible the Nationals suddenly become a seller ? The potential for the Nats to be a last minute disrupter to the trade deadline market is actually pretty good. Maybe 50/50. They are 1 game under .500 at 46-47, and 6.5 games out of 1st in the East. If they drop to 8 or 9 games out, they may decide to pull the plug. They have 11 guys turning FA after this season. Check out their Contracts Page . Key names, In addition to Bryce Harper, who I’m sure everyone would love to see in Sedona Red ;) also include Gio Gonzalez, Daniel Murphy, Matt Wieters, and even Jeremy Hellickson (having a good year 121 ERA+ ). On top of this, Anthony Rendon is a free agent in 2020. If you are looking for an impact bat that you can control at least one more year, (and extend the “win” window), he could be a target. If the Nationals join the fray as sellers in the next 7-10 days, it could really shake up trade values league wide.

Makakilo: I hope for two acquisitions – an inexpensive lefty bullpen pitcher, like Aaron Loup (see shoewizard’s article for a wide list of possibilities), and an expensive rental of a consistent hitter who is underappreciated by other teams. In my search for names that are under the radar, I focused on third base. Either Danny Valencia or Anthony Rendon could platoon with Lamb at third base (Lamb vs righties, acquired player vs lefties).

Jake Lamb (D-backs, FA 2021).

  • RHP: .241/.325/.393/.718, May/June/July whiffs/100swings 29/29/25
  • LHP:.186/.280/.256/.536, May/June/July whiffs/100swings 29/26/37

Danny Valencia (Orioles, FA in 2019).

  • RHP:.220/.266/.339/.605, May/June/July whiffs/100swings 19/30/30
  • LHP:.301/.370/.538/.908, May/June/July whiffs/100swings 9/19/8

The following faint praise makes me think Valencia might be underappreciated: “I think this is about as good as I’ve seen him versus both sides, right- and left-handed pitching. Danny has stepped up defensively, he’s having a solid year. -- Showalter

Additional positive: Valencia can play in the outfield.

Jack’s idea of Anthony Rendon (Nationals, FA in 2020).

  • RHP:.271/.339/.490/.829, May/June/July whiffs/100swings 12/16/14
  • LHP:.321/.379/.628/1.008, May/June/July whiffs/100swings 12/18/7

The following quote makes me think Rendon is underappreciated: “His personality is such, with some bigger personalities on this team, his hype has been stifled a little bit. I think he likes it that way.”-- Rizzo

For further evidence of underappreciated, read this article, Anthony Rendon Is the Nationals’ Mr. Anonymous. He Shouldn’t Be.

edbigghead: The offense has struggled so I think most people see that and want to add a bat. We are not getting Machado and we have like a billion outfielders right now. I firmly believe that a team can never have enough pitching. I would go after a lefty bullpen arm, there are so many to choose from so I defer to the experts above on whomst we go get. But definitely a lefty bullpen arm.

Keegan: Three left handers out of the bullpen is too many. J-A-R-E-D H-U-G-H-ES. How the hell did so many teams miss on this guy in the offseason? Milwaukee cut bait and did not even tender him a contract.Cincinnati got him at an absolute steal of 2 years for $4.5 million dollars. All he has done is post a 280 ERA+ in 49 innings on a 65.2% ground ball rate. He’d be an absolute weapon at the back end of our bullpen, and the Reds should be looking to sell high on him.

Pat: I do believe that Hazen & Co. will prioritize pitching at the deadline, but I find it difficult to believe that they will acquire any sort of big name pitcher. The Yankees have had their name on basically every starting pitcher that could possibly be available, and there are a number of newly competitive teams with some prospects left who also seem ready to spend (Braves, Phillies, Brewers). I believe the Dbacks will trade for Zack Wheeler, as he is young, cheap (in terms of his contract), and still has a year of team control left. I also think we have the prospects in our system to get the deal done without removing too much talent from the top.

What will the keys be to the team succeeding in the second half?

Michael: The Dbacks need AJ Pollock and Steven Souza to play as they’re capable of playing while Souza, Avila, Lamb, and Marte playing at the level they’re normally accustomed to in addition to Goldy, Peralta, and Ahmed sustaining their career-best seasons to date. Paul Goldschmidt being the best hitter on the planet since May 23rd helped the Diamondbacks pick up some wins in June, but the team overall struggles at the plate as a group. The pitching will have to continue to be good with Hirano, Bradley, Boxberger continuing to get the job done in high leverage innings and the starters being able to go more than 5 innings and hopefully 6. Godley will have to continue with the way he ended the first half and Ray will have to find his 2017 form which has eluded him due to injuries.

In short: the team needs to hit league average post-break and the pitchers continue to do their thing for the Dbacks to have a shot at the playoffs.

Jack: First and foremost, health is the key. The NL West is really looking like a war of attrition right now. The team that has the best luck with health the next 2.5 months is the favorite.

Makakilo: Three keys: consistent offense, an uninjured rotation, and continued excellence in the bullpen.

edbigghead: Play every single game to win the division. There may be no wild card option for us this season.

Keegan: Positive regression for the lineup. Stabilizing the tail end of the starting rotation. Arizona can’t pay attention to what is going on with the Dodgers, Giants, Rockies, Brewers, Cubs, Braves, and Phillies. They have to take care of their own business day by day. I do believe that this team can hang on for at least a wild card spot, but I’d like to see them make a push for the division title.

Wesley: The team will need to stay healthy, first and foremost. We need our offense to improve, and have Souza Jr, Jarrod Dyson, and Alex Avila to hit and perform like we expected when we acquired them. It’d be really helpful to have Ketel Marte’s peripheral statistics that suggest he’s about to break out translate into him actually breaking out. Really we just don’t need any dead weight on the team.

Pat: Getting all their players healthy and performing at previous levels may be better than any trade they make at the deadline. John Jay, Steven Souza, Jake Lamb, Zack Godley, Robbie Ray, Alex Avila etc. It feels like the list of guys who haven’t been playing as expected can go on and on. Removing Chris Owings and Jorge De La Rosa from the active roster are two transactions that I feel will immediately improve the team. Let’s start there.

What are the potential pitfalls?

Michael: The potential pitfalls could be the bullpen breaking down (not a lot of depth or flexibility there, necessitating possibly a move at the deadline), Godley and Ray regressing, and the offense returns to its May levels of run scoring. I don’t think the team is that bad, but they’ve had horrendous stretches in the middle of games at the plate and it’s becoming too frequent for my liking.

Jack: Other than injury, I remain more concerned about a team wide offensive slump than anything else. I agree with Mike Bullpen breakdown is a big concern too. I think they DO try to address the pen with at least one move.

Makakilo: Beyond the keys to success, there are factors beyond the team’s control.

  • The Dodgers could get desperate and decide to bust the luxury tax threshold.
  • The Rockies could have a winning streak.
  • The Diamondbacks could get unlucky on the field - game situations working against the Diamondbacks and umpires’ high leverage calls going the wrong way.

edbigghead: The offense could be what sinks us if we continue to leave a ton of guys on base in situations where we absolutely need those runs to score. We also seem to have a baserunning awareness problem, lately. Secondly our B bullpen could crash the ship with Chafin’s recent blandness, Delgado’s slow return to form, and JDLR’s tire fire of an existence.

Keegan: If the pitching begins to take steps backwards this team is dead in the water without the ability to score runs. It’s a tall ask of the pitching staff to go out there and surrender less than 3 runs on a consistent basis to put the team in position to win. An injury to either Corbin or Greinke would really put the starting rotation in a bind.

Wesley: It’s a war of attrition this year, and the healthiest team will be the one that wins the division. Any more injuries to our rotation for key offensive players basically will kill our chances of winning the division. The offense (or lack thereof) will be the biggest reason why we don’t win the division. An offensive drought spells doom for our chances of making the playoffs. That awful May was a product of one of the worst offensive months in baseball history. We need to avoid another month like that if we are going to win the division.

Pat: Injuries, injuries, and more injuries. They already nearly crashed our playoff chances earlier in the season, and it can easily happen again.

Predict a final record and outcome for the season.

Michael: 89-73 with the Dbacks once again hosting the Wild Card game against the Milwaukee Brewers (Cubs win the NL Central late due to having superior talent and depth). Dbacks finish 2 games back of LA. For the playoffs, they beat Milwaukee and lose in 4 games to the Cubs in the NLDS.

Jack: As pointed out by Jim in the most recent Playoff odds report, the various projection systems have converged . Boy have they ever. Even more so since then . As of Sunday morning, projected records/playoff odds are:

FG. 87-75, 55% playoffs, 19% division, 36% WC

BP. 87-75, 63% playoffs, 32% division, 30% WC

538 87-75, 56% playoffs, 28% division, 28% WC

So right now it’s basically a coin flip whether or not the DBacks get into the post season. That feels about right.

Makakilo: In March, I predicted 90 wins – I stand by my prediction. Although fivethirtyeight.com gives the average simulated season wins as 87 (updated this morning), it is reasonable to anticipate that Hazen’s trades will add 3 wins. As far as outcome, I predict the Diamondbacks are playoff bound.

edbigghead: I predict we win the Division. I predict The Dodgers lose their steam during the 2nd half and The Rockies pick up the pace. Dbacks win division with Col and LA fighting for the scraps of 2nd place and a potential wildcard. SF fades into nothingness….

Keegan: 90-72 and hosting the wild card game for a second straight season.

Wesley: It’s really a coin flip whether we make the postseason or not. As the team stands now, I think the projection of 87 wins sounds about right. If we bolster our offense, I can see 90+ wins. Really I’ll go with ¯\_(ツ)_/ ¯

Pat: 88-74. 2nd in NL West behind the Dodgers.
Win the WC game.
Lose in the NLDS. (Déjà vu)

What non-SnakePit websites do you visit most often?

Michael: Pats Pulpit and AZ Desert Swarm for the most part. It’s July, which means I also frequent MLB Trade Rumors and I really think the Dbacks are out on Machado, so I wonder what other moves are in store.

Jack: I assume we are talking baseball here ? Baseball-Reference.com and Fangraphs.com, obviously the most often. But I hit all the usual baseball related suspects at least once a day. MLB.com, DBacks.com, Trade Rumors, The Athletic, and of course Twitter.

Makakilo: The AZ SnakePit website is the best! I have many baseball sites bookmarked. After the AZ SnakePit, my top 10 baseball websites (in alphabetical order):

  • The Athletic (excellent writing)
  • Baseball Reference (one site with many ways to find information)
  • Baseball Savant (Statcast leaderboard)
  • Brooks Baseball (pitcher cards are excellent)
  • Chorus (for Snakepit staff writing)
  • FanGraphs (deeper stats)
  • MLB Roster Resource (who has been playing recently)
  • MLB Scoreboard (links to follow games in progress and boxscores/play-lists for completed games)
  • MLB Trade Rumors (baseball news and links)
  • MiLB Minor League Game Logs (for players in rehab)

edbigghead: mlbtraderumors, reddit.com/r/baseball + /r/azdiamondbacks, arizonasports.com and mlb.com. Also all of The Brute Squad’s social media pages.

Keegan: Used to be Inside the ‘Zona when Jeff and Ryan were publishing there consistently. I’m not being a homer, but you really can’t rival the content (articles/analysis) provided on the Snake Pit. Of course, I frequent Baseball Reference and Fangraphs. Twitter is basically a go to for breaking news around the league provided you follow the appropriate sources. Outside of baseball related sites I’m not on the . interwebs all that much.

Wesley: Pretty much all the baseball sites mentioned I frequent on a regular basis. Reddit has a ton of useful subreddits that you can tailor to suit your interests. Bref, fangraphs, mlbtraderumors.. our sister site minorleagueball.com is great and I love Sickels’ work. That’s really the only one that hasn’t been mentioned that I go to. Lately I have been watching all kinds of documentaries on YouTube. I follow a multitude of news sources to get a fair look at current events and various scientific publications. There are also lots of sites I go to for a cheap laugh but I’ll leave those out.

Pat: I visit FanGraphs and MLB Trade Rumors daily. I also use RosterResource quite frequently as well. As for non-baseball sites, well that’s personal ;)